If you’re looking for a way of eating anyone can and should do, look no further than the DASH diet. This eating plan is so well-respected that 2017 marks its seventh year in a row of being named as the best choice of diet overall by US News & World Report. It once again beat out 38 other diet plans in 9 categories including the likelihood of sticking to the diet, the odds of losing weight in the short- and long-term, and effectiveness against cardiovascular disease and diabetes in addition to being safe and nutritious to follow.
The DASH diet is best known for its role in helping to reduce high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is a chronic condition affecting around 29% or 70 million American adults. One out of every three adults has it and it’s called the “silent killer” due to few warning signs or symptoms. When blood pressure is elevated, it can do major damage to artery walls and organs like the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. This puts a person at risk for a heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure and kidney disease.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. When followed correctly, blood pressure can be reduced by a few points in just two weeks, making a significant reduction in health risks.
The DASH eating plan is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat while emphasizing increasing the minerals of potassium, calcium and magnesium. The one mineral it recommends to decrease is sodium. Studies have shown reducing dietary sodium lowers blood pressure. Although sodium is a necessary nutrient, the average American consumes about 3400 mg of sodium a day, whereas the DASH diet stresses between 1500 mg to no more than 2300 mg of sodium a day.
10 steps to begin the DASH diet
Here are ten ways that highlight reducing sodium in the diet. Following these tips can help begin the process of lowering blood pressure:
1. Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals low in sodium – no more than 200 mg of sodium per serving.
2. Choose low-sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables. Rinse canned vegetables in a colander under running water to remove excess sodium.
3. Rinsing canned tuna and canned beans will also remove excess sodium.
4. Avoid frozen dinners, boxed items, pizza, canned soups or broth and salad dressing which can contain a lot of sodium.
5. When eating out, avoid menu items that indicate high sodium content: smoked, cured, soy sauce, pickled or broth.
6. Choose fresh poultry, lean meat and fish, avoiding processed, smoked or canned items.
7. Use herbs and spices to flavor foods. Instead of reaching for the salt shaker, reach instead for fresh or dried herbs, spices, vinegar, citrus and salt-free seasoning blends to season foods. In most recipes, salt can be reduced by half.
8. Compare sodium amounts using the nutrition facts label. Look where the sodium content is listed and what the percent Daily Value (DV) is. Choose foods that have less than 5 percent of the DV for sodium and avoid foods with 20 percent of more of the DV for sodium.
9. Choose at least 5 servings daily of naturally low-sodium to sodium free fruits and vegetables. These foods are also rich in the mineral potassium which has been shown to help reduce blood pressure.
10. Be aware of unexpected foods that contain too much sodium such as ketchup, cheese, deli meats and spaghetti sauce. The more of these foods you use, the greater the intake of sodium you’ll have.
There are many more components to following the DASH diet eating plan besides decreasing dietary sodium. Anyone can follow this diet regardless of their blood pressure status as it is a healthy way of eating for anyone of any age and can be followed for the rest of your life.
To learn a wealth of information on how to follow it, go to the link below and begin taking steps toward the DASH diet and achieve lower blood pressure: